"...a Chessmaster should be a combination of a beast of prey and a monk."

Monday, October 12, 2015

Slow Chess Club in Taipei

The story is a bit long and winding but we had our first meeting of the slow over the board chess club this last Sunday. I was quite happy with the turn-out. (5 players, but remember we are a small community and just trying to get this thing off the ground.) It remains to be seen how things will go week to week, but it is heartening to feel there were enough people for several games each and that for the most part they were serious and focused opportunities to practice.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Getting Better at Attacking

I am definitely starting to think of myself as positional player. I feel that I am at my best when there is more maneuvering and the targets are smaller, like pawns or even just positional concessions. Don't get me wrong, I am still playing like a 14-1500 player. I just mean where I am better. I play like an 1100 player a lot of the time when I am doing a king-side attack. However, I am still very committed to the notion of being a well rounded player. I very much believe that while there is value in identifying our strengths, it is a mistake to box ourselves in. So, I still want to practice my attacking chess and play for an attack when I feel it is called for on the board.

This is a game where I felt the king-side attack was a warranted strategy. I am happy with this game because I managed to play more like a 1400-1500 player while I was carrying out this attack. I was thinking through my decisions and avoiding mistakes I have made previously. I am sure from just going over the game that a stronger defender could easily have squelched my attacking chances at several points and just been up material.

I feel my attitude has changed a little bit though. Instead of seeing my opponents mistakes and feeling that they make the win worthless, I am seeing it as a case of improvement. I think I pursued my chosen strategy doggedly and continued to maintain my initiative and will to win. My choices were reasonable enough that when my opponent made mistakes I was still in the game enough to take advantage.

Lastly, I kept my head even at the end and didn't fall into psychological traps I have fallen into before. So for these reasons I see this game more as progress not perfection. I know my attacking skills are weak but I am continuing to work at it and I seem to be getting better.

I think these kinds of opportunities are valuable because they allow me to see some things that do work and give me encouragement as well as the necessary punishment I have taken when my play was worse.

funghetto (1328) - JabotScrob (1523)

Result: 0-1
Site: Chess.com
Date: 2015.10.09
[...] 1.e4 c6 2.c4 d6 3.d4 e5 4.d5 cxd5 5.cxd5 ♘f6 6.♘c3 ♘bd7 7.♗b5 a6 8.♗xd7 ♗xd7 9.f3 g6 10.♗e3 ♖c8 I obviously played g6 with the possibility of Bg7 and 0-0 in mind. However, fairly early I had noted that the central structure is closed, so castling isn't as high a priority as usual. I am also unfamiliar with playing this kind of pawn structure, but I did notice that according to the "pawn pointing rule" I should aim to play on the king-side. I also noticed that because of f3 and the open c-file his king might be vulnerable on either wing while my king might actually be more secure in the center than if I castled first and allowed opposite sides castling. For these reasons I here started making some moves which were mostly designed to wait for him to choose so I could decide what to do. 11.♕b3 b5 12.♘ge2 ♘h5 I was again looking for something non-commital when I saw this. Part of my idea is that Ng3 is not so appealing now because opening the h-file isn't as powerful if I'm not castled king-side. I was also thinking about Nf4, and f5 as future possibilities. 13.O-O f5 14.♖fc1 f4 15.♗f2 ♕g5 16.♔h1 ♕h6 17.♕a3 This is one of the balances I see that you have to walk in attacking. Here he is making a threat on the queenside. I have to decide now whether I am going to respond and so possibly cede the initiative (can you tell I just read that chapter in "Amateur's Mind") or if I think the counter-play is weak enough that I should just proceed with my attack. Here the road forks because if I go ahead then I will begin shedding material and then I have to have sufficient compensation in terms of attacking chances. I have erred both on the side of crazy stupid allowing material loss without compensation and also being too cautious and watching chances evaporate. Although I clearly will lose 2 pawns, and he will open up the queenside for his own counter-attack I decided to just push ahead as I felt I didn't want to give up being in the driver's seat. 17...♗e7 18.♕xa6 g5 19.♘xb5 ♘g3 20.♘xg3 fxg3 21.♖xc8 ♔f7 22.♗xg3 ♖xc8 One of the problems with the attack was the fact that I hadn't cleared my own lines so my pawns were keeping my rook out of the game. g5 was an attempt to work on that but with this little tactical trick I realized that I could bring the rook into play on c2. 23.♕b7 ♗h3 I did this because again, particularly now that I had already started shedding material I couldn't back down and start passively defending. Notice here that there are some tactics on my c8 rook. If he plays gxh3 and I play Qxh3 which was my idea, the rook is immediately defended against the queen taking it, but because the bishop is pinned by the queen and my queen is defending the d6 pawn, if I do take on h3 right after he does then I will lose the rook to Nxd6+ forking the rook. That would absolutely be game over 1-0. 24.gxh3 ♖c2 25.♘c7 I think this is a major mistake because it breaks the pin on the bishop, gets in the way of the white queen and places the knight on a square that is attacked by the rook which ties the queen to the defense of it. It also gives up the threat of Nxd6 which was keeping my queen from taking on h3. I also don't see any real positives that it offers. 25...♕xh3 26.♖g1 h5 My attack is gathering steam again. 27.♕b3 Here I thought for a good while. The different possibilities were moving the rook along the 2nd rank, giving up the rook and proceeding with the remaining material (maybe looking for a bail out perpetual), and lastly taking the c7 knight. Option one seemed bad because there was no where to put the rook where the opponent couldn't simply attack it again and make progress towards working his queen into the defense of the king. It's the initiative again. The second option just didn't have any tactical justification. Option 3 seemed bad because it seemed to release the initiative and simply go into an endgame down 2 connected passed pawns. The reason I chose option 3 was because I felt that it gained me back a significant chunk of my material investment but I still had some attacking possibilities. This is another part of the balance, when to worry about material in an attack and when to shed it. From here on I begin swinging the material balance back the other way. 27...♖xc7 28.a4 h4 29.♗f2 g4 30.♕d1 g3 31.♗xg3 hxg3 32.♖xg3 ♕h5 I've won another piece and am now only down roughly one pawn but I still have some threats. 33.b4 ♗g5 34.a5 A tactical blunder, but again, I think this is part of the sport aspect of chess. I maintained pressure on the opponent through much of the game and he eventually succumbed to a blunder. He feels the danger is passed. He thinks I am threatening only the future threat Bf4 which is easily parried. I think he must have felt some sense of relief that I had resorted to such meager attacks and that his pawns would now triumph. I don't know what the engine will say here but I think with my extra bishop I have good chances to win back my pawns even if he didn't blunder here. 34...♖c1 35.♕xc1 ♗xc1 36.a6 ♗e3 37.b5 ♗f2 38.♔g2 The last significant decision. Do I win more material with Bxg3 and ignore the pawns relying on my unopposed queen to sweep down and gobble them up or do I allow him to keep his rook and maintain a wall on the b6 and a7 squares. Now is my chance to make the same psychological mistake and feel that now the material pendulum has swung completely in my favor and I have won the game and further increasing the material gap will finish it, ignoring the actual possibilities on the board. I stopped and started calculating and decided the pawns were just to dangerous to trade off the bishop. 38...♗e3 39.♖h3 ♕g5 At the end I was still trying to be cautious. I am still thinking about his possiblities and remembering that if somehow I were to put my queen on my second on the a or b file (by capturing a pawn with my queen for instance) then he can x-ray me with Rh7+. Simply a possible blunder that I could make if I allowed over-confidence to make me stop thinking about my moves (which is a flaw I am quite familiar with) but that instead I am spotting ahead of time. These are the moments that make me feel that I am getting better at chess.
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Thursday, October 8, 2015

An interesting upset win

I am happy about this game. I felt I got an advantage in the opening and was able to nurse it to victory. I think there are some points where he could have stopped me but he made some time wasting moves and I capitalized on them to secure the concessions I needed.

Again, I feel that some of the positional themes from "Amateur's Mind" are showing up in my games and changing how I play. I also feel happy that I did well with the king and pawns endgame which I have practiced a lot of.

Jolly_wag (1615) - JabotScrob (1517)

Result: 0-1
Site: Chess.com
Date: 2015.10.08
[...] 1.d4 d5 I have kind of decided that I favor positional chess. I have played the king's indian for awhile now, but I have decided to switch back to d5 since I don't think the attacking ethos of the king's indian suits me. Also, I rarely got to play any main lines since so many people seem to switch off into the London system. 2.♘f3 e6 3.g3 ♘f6 4.♗g5 ♗e7 5.♗g2 O-O 6.O-O c5 7.c3 ♘c6 Up till here I am just playing according the rough guideline in my head of what I should be doing. I wouldn't call this theory but I think my moves are pretty standard. 8.♘bd2 ♕b6 My idea is a double attack piling up on the d4 pawn and hitting the b2 pawn. I expected Nd3 which defends both. But on reflection... 9.dxc5
9.♘b3 c4 ...is probably no good for white either. So, considering the way the game went I would almost label Nbd2 as the losing move. I think he should play as my chessbase tree showed with Qb3.
9...♕xb2 So I can take on either c5 or b2. Why do I choose b2? Because I am pretty sure that if I take the c5 pawn he will defend b2 easily and material will be equal and the position seems level. However, if I take b2 the pawn structure is way worse and it seems that the c5 pawn is much harder to defend. Just had to double check there were no queen trapping tactics. 10.♕b3 ♕xb3 I feel very happy to trade queens in this situation. 11.axb3 h6 12.♗xf6 ♗xf6 13.♖fc1 The point is that I want to keep the c5 pawn weak. So I would like to play a5 because it prevents b4 protecting it. However, currently a5 doesn't actually prevent b4 because after axb my rook is hanging. So I need to get my bishop out of the way and connect my rooks. I expected him to play b4 and maybe I can no longer win a pawn over here. 13...♗d7 14.e4 Why don't I want to take? Because right now the d5 pawn is doing a good job restricting the Nd2. If I take, he recaptures with the knight hitting my bishop and he is taking over the initiative. 14...a5 Now he has given me the time to get in my a5 which keeps his pawns messed up and weak. 15.♖c2 I asked myself what this move could be about. The only thing I could see was intending to double on the a-file. However, the Rc2 is guarding the c3 pawn so currently it can't really execute this "threat" so I think this is just another time waster. I expected exd5 because at least it saddles me with an isolated pawn. On the other hand I thought about this and I know that an iso is not neccessarily bad and if you have the minor pieces on you can play "around" the pawn so I decided not to be afraid of it and go ahead with my plan rather than playing dxe4 just to avoid something that could be good as well as bad. 15...♗e7 The other reason Rc2 is wasted is because the a5 pawn is defended by the knight as well as the Ra8 so it actually is fruitless to double against it. So although I could play Ra7 followed by Rfa8, there's no point and I can get back to attacking the c5 pawn. 16.exd5 exd5 17.♖ca2 ♗xc5 Finally I win the c5 pawn. 18.b4 ♗b6 19.♘b3 ♖a7 My idea here is that he can take the pawn back because then I play Rfa8 and the knight is pinned. 20.b5 Seems like it separates his pawns which weakens them more. Maybe he is just trying to generate tactics. 20...♘e7 21.♘bd4 f6 My plan was Nc8 followed by Nd6 double attack on b6 pawn and preventing c4. But I was worried about Ne4 and I don't really want to let him trade his knight for my bishop, but again it's an initiative thing. He would be taking over the game. So I prevent it. He can't play Nd2 because Bxd4 followed by Bxb5 and the d-pawn is defended. 22.♖e1 I called this a "thank you move" when I saw it, since it kind of forces me to do the thing I wanted to do anyway. Hard to say though. It seems good to take control of the e-file and in a way it gives him a knight or rook outpost on e6. 22...♘c8 23.♖b2 ♘d6 24.♘d2 Now because I moved my knight this move is more effective than before. However, my reply is still best I think and note that by trading the d-pawn for the b-pawn I left with b and a pawns next to eachother and all he has on the queenside is the lonely c pawn. 24...♗xd4 25.♗xd5 ♔h8 26.cxd4 ♘xb5 27.♖e7 I had to think here a good while to figure out the tactics of this situation. Basically I stopped at Nxa7 in the game because I noticed that my b-pawn wasn't haning because it was used to recapture on c6. I looked at a couple of rook threats in that position but it seemed at a glance from the distance that I wasn't losing a pawn or anything and I end up with a passed a-pawn running like an escaped criminal (Nimzovitch). 27...♗c6 28.♗xc6 bxc6 29.♖xa7 ♘xa7 30.♖a2 ♘b5 So I didn't see this or the following when I played Bc6 so I sort of feel that the way this stuff worked out was a bit of luck for me. Here I am perfectly happy to trade the a pawn for the d-pawn. 31.♘f3 ♖a8 32.♖c2 ♖a6 33.♖c4 a4 34.♘d2 a3 35.♘b3 a2 36.♘a1 ♔g8 37.♔f1 ♔f7 38.♔e2 ♔e6 39.♔d3 ♖a3 Almost played Kd5. I don't know that it's a disaster or anything but seems fruitless as he can play Rc5 and I just have to back up. 40.♔e4 ♖c3 41.♖xc3 ♘xc3 42.♔d3 ♘b5 43.♔c4 ♘d6 44.♔b3 ♘f5 45.♔xa2 I felt a little bad about giving up the a-pawn because it was on the 7th rank and it lets his knight back in the game however, I still have a passed pawn and my king is ready for action. 45...♘xd4 46.♔b2 c5 47.♔c3 ♔d5 48.h4 c4 49.♘c2 ♘xc2 50.♔xc2 ♔d4 51.♔d2 c3 52.♔c2 f5 Here I knew I was won because I knew I could use my king to eat his kingside pawns while he has to take the c-pawn. This move prevents an immediate g4 and so he will play f3 or f4 and I can move in. 53.f3 ♔e3 54.g4 fxg4 55.fxg4 ♔f4 56.g5 Here I knew for sure I was won because after hxg hxg I will definitely be able to get my king the requisite two ranks ahead of the pawn for the win in a pure king and pawn endgame. 56...hxg5 57.hxg5 ♔xg5 58.♔xc3 ♔g4 59.♔d3 ♔f3 60.♔d2 g5 61.♔e1 ♔g2 62.♔e2 g4 63.♔e3 g3 64.♔f4 ♔f2
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